Protecting Your Software Collection 
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Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Tuesday, 01 March 2005

AV Education on RHT

Protecting Your Software Collection

Written by Jerry Del Colliano

With consumers flocking to all sorts of new server-based storage systems, ranging from Apple iPods to Media Center PCs to video servers like Kaliedescape’s $27,000 system, one truth remains: we still need to find a good storage solution for our physical CDs and DVDs. While some throw caution to the wind and simply trade in their discs as soon as they get a new server, those end users are playing a high stakes game of poker. Anyone who has seen a hard drive fail or a record company sue a consumer knows it is best to keep those discs as a backup in the event that someday you will need them.

From the early days of the compact disc, consumers were told that CDs and DVDs are virtually indestructible. I think the marketing line was “perfect sound forever.” The truth is that digital discs, like CDs, DVDs, video games and even good old laserdiscs, are fairly delicate. It’s surprisingly easy to scratch, smudge or break discs, which can affect their ability to be read by your CD or DVD player or cause them to not work at all.

Storing Discs Properly
The most important tip for protecting all of your media discs, whether you’re using CDs or DVDs, is to return them to their storage device immediately after you are finished using them, whether it is ripping them into a server, playing them on a DVD player or taking them on the road for a spin in your in-dash car player. The common practice of stacking discs on top of each other or placing them on countertops and similar surfaces can create scratches very easily. You may not realize it, but scratches on the label side of the CD are more likely to cause playback problems, because data is stored much closer to this side of the disc. Check out for some unique solutions to discs that have already suffered damage. It’s also important to avoid setting your discs on or near strong magnetic fields, which may erase or distort data stored on your discs. Common items around the house to keep your discs away from are computer monitors, television sets, players and microwave ovens.

Media Storage Systems
Jewel Cases
Storing CDs in jewel cases is common, as the discs typically come packaged in jewel cases, but believe it or not, discs can become scratched in jewel cases in many ways. This includes if they “come off” the center spindle and shuffle around in the case, whereby the surface continually rubs against the spindle, causing scratches. Also, jewel cases can crack and splinter quite easily if they are used frequently for transporting discs (i.e., if used in automobiles). The most pressing issue with jewel cases is physical space in most systems. With many collections of CDs running into the thousands, the space needed to store discs is vast and with per square foot prices in the $750 to $1,000 range, consumers in many of America’s biggest cities are looking for servers or alternative ways to have their music but save space at the same time.

CD Cases or Wallets
Over the years, many disc users have used disc cases or wallets to store and transport disc collections. There are a few very good case solutions available, but not all are created equal.

A few things to look out for when using a disc case or wallet:

(a) The case should be able to withstand normal wear and be made of a material you trust will protect the discs from cracks or scratches when the case is dropped. Most nylon cases do very little to protect your discs from drops and they have a tendency to “bulge” when completely filled.

(b) The pockets used in the case/wallet should be made of a very soft non-woven material to ensure that your discs are not scratched when inserting and removing them (the better cases will actually clean your discs when inserting and removing them from the soft pocket). If possible, you should also look for a pocket design that does not require you to seal and unseal a pocket each time, as these have a tendency to tear after extensive use.

(c) It is generally recommended that you stay away from cases that use plastic (specifically PVC) front panels for the disc pocket, because the chemicals from PVC can negatively affect the disc. It is a must that if any plastic is used for a front panel, it is not PVC but is instead polypropylene (orange peel polypropylene, to be exact). The difference is that PVC will stick to your discs (especially if left in the heat), which can cause damage by removing part of the protective layer when it is separated from the disc. Orange peel polypropylene will not do this. It’s also very important that you store your discs, in or out of your case, in a cool, dry place. Heat and moisture can warp your discs, making them impossible to read and possibly causing damage to your CD or DVD player. Ideally, you want to have a pocket system where the disc is stored in a pocket that has soft, non-woven material for both the front and rear panel of the pocket.

What To Do With Fingerprints?
Fingerprints are more than just smudges that need be wiped off of your discs. The oils on your hands can actually eat away at the coating on the disc, damaging the reflective layer and making those areas unreadable to your CD or DVD player. The best policy is to only grab your discs by the edge or hold on to the central plastic ring where data isn’t stored.

Never use a hard-tipped pen to label your discs and always write on the provided area or on the inside plastic ring. Felt-tip permanent markers are best and water-soluble inks prove to be the safest and most convenient, since they dry quickly. Even slightly etching anything on your discs on either side can make them no longer readable in your player.

How to Properly Clean Your Discs
CDs and DVDs should only be wiped off with a clean, dry or slightly moist super-soft cloth made especially for this purpose. Be sure to use a non-abrasive cleanser that is designed specifically for use on disc surfaces. Please note that certain cleansers that may be suitable for CDs may not be safe to use on CD-Rs, CD-RWs and DVDs. Another very important tip is that you should always wipe your discs off from the center toward the outer edge, never in a circular motion. In the event that you don’t have any CD cleaning liquid on hand, use a dry, lint-free rag.

Are DVDs More Fragile That CDs?
It is not commonly known that DVDs are actually far more sensitive to scratching and destruction than CDs. On CDs, the data is able to be stored closer to the label side of the disc, which provides a little bit of extra physical protection. However, since DVDs store data on both sides, each has only a thin layer of protection between your beloved Angelina Jolie movie and the harsh outside world. This means that even the smallest scratches can cause a great deal of difficulty in your DVD player’s ability to read the disc.

Scratch-Proof DVDs?
Earlier this year, the manufacturer TDK released a new DVD that can withstand the forces of a screwdriver, a permanent marker and, yes, even a two-year-old child. They are still awaiting the patent for their polymer coating. These discs are certainly more durable than the majority of DVDs currently being sold. However, you can expect to pay five or six times more for this new technology. Naturally, these prices are expected to fall over the next few years, so unless you’re willing to shell out big bucks for a DVD that can double as a Frisbee, follow the above tips and be careful with your discs.

Your music and movie collection is valuable and can be enjoyed for years to come on many evolutions of your system, as long as you care for your discs as though they are fine art – which in many ways they are. You can save space by storing your CDs away in cases or you can have unprecedented access to your music and movies on innovative new servers, but no matter what, keep your archived discs protected and waiting for you in the event you need them. If you are careful, you can make them last a lifetime.
Slappa Storage Cases

TDK Recordable Media

Sharpie Markers

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